Homeowners inspired by nature, traditional design

Pam Adams

Jeff Henline suspects his wife would say his decorating tastes are boring. Actually, she’s far more diplomatic.

“He’s very, very traditional,” Holly Henline says. “I can do traditional or modern.”

Their East Peoria, Ill., home is both. Call it modern traditional or traditional modern, either way, it’s a contemporary homage to family, entertaining and Holly Henline’s decorating ingenuity.

But first, know this:  

Jeff Henline takes his role as the husband of a chronic decorator seriously.

“When she says, 'I’ve got another project,' I shut the door,” he says, referring to his upstairs office/man cave, the most cluttered room of the house.  

And this: Jeff’s office isn’t really that cluttered, but Holly is one of those people who is so allergic to clutter that her kitchen counter is practically bare.

“I do not like clutter,” she admits. “Everything has its place.”

Holly’s latest project — bamboo flooring she and a friend installed in the living and dining areas — redefines customary definitions of traditional and modern decorating styles.

It’s modern and environmentally conscientious. But it also reflects long-held traditions of grandmotherhood. “I wanted something durable but casual for the grandkids and comfortable for us,” she says.

Throughout, the Henline home is clean, uncluttered lines mixed with traditional accents and mostly dark-colored furniture with clean lines. Instead of bright colors on the walls, she opted for muted, nature colors that bring the outdoors inside. The home’s layout takes advantage of its secluded location on the wooded bluffs of the Illinois River with long window views across the width of the back of the house. Holly took advantage of the view by shying away from traditional window treatments.  

For instance, the cloth shades in the dining room only look like Roman shades. She stitched them to loop like Roman shades, but left out the drawstrings to raise them up and down. “I knew I wasn’t going to close them,” she says.

The small kitchen right off the front door is one of the few rooms in the house without a river bluff view. There, she hints at a window treatment and the river with a narrow strip of light aqua-colored fabric, attached by hooks, undulating across the top of the window frame.

Holly’s blend of traditional leanings and her contemporary creativity are most apparent in her decorating accents. Much of the art work is large, framed sepia-toned photos of family members. The grandkids bedroom — there are three grandkids — features photos of each one’s baby feet.  She couldn’t find other artwork she liked for their bedroom, but she did find large jigsaw puzzles. She and Jeff put them together, adhered them with puzzle glue, then framed them for the wall.

Jeff’s father, who discovered an artistic streak in retirement, is the artist behind the paintings in other rooms. Holly’s father, once an antiques buff, is the gift-giver behind the older furnishings strategically placed throughout the home. For instance, he gave Holly the rocking chair and changing table in the grandkids’ bedroom when she was raising her children.

At five bedrooms, the house is much larger than they had intended for their down-sizing years. But it’s perfect for entertaining friends and their growing extended family. (The couple is expecting a dog and a wedding at their home in the near future.)  

A large home also gives Holly room to play with decorating ideas. In her day job, she’s an administrator at a local hospital. But she recently earned an associate’s degree in interior decorating and she has done decorating projects for others.

The basement, which includes a full kitchen and a walk-out screened-in porch, gave Holly a chance to go retro.  

She fought the basement’s vintage 1970s-look at first. But when she stopped fighting, her decorating theme fell into place and she found a trove of potential  artwork and an unlikely assistant — her husband and his collection of old rock ‘n roll albums.

About 30 framed album covers from Jeff’s collection help carry out the basement’s retro theme on the basement walls. She let Jeff pick out which albums she would frame.

“She only sent back about 10,” he says.

“Yes,” she adds, “the colors weren’t just quite right.”

Her next project?

His room. At least that’s what she says.

Pam Adams can be reached at padams@pjstar.com.